Judge Extends Ban on 3D-Printed Guns

This May 10, 2013, photo shows a plastic pistol that was completely made on a 3D-printer at a home in Austin, Texas. A coalition of gun-control groups has filed an appeal in federal court seeking to block a recent Trump administration ruling that will allow the publication of blueprints to build a 3D-printed firearm. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

SEATTLE (CN) – A federal judge on Monday extended his order blocking a company from putting instructions on how to make 3D-printed guns on its website, despite permission to do so by the U.S. government.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik’s order extends a temporary ban he issued last month, finding the government possibly violated federal laws by giving Defense Distributed permission to release the blueprints.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson brought a federal complaint in July on behalf of several states and the District of Columbia over a settlement the gun-rights company reached with the U.S. government. Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson had sued to publish the blueprints after being forced to remove the posted designs in 2013 because the government said he violated the law.

The United States vigorously defended the suit until unexpectedly settling with Wilson on June 29, in an agreement allowing publication. The coalition of states immediately sued to halt the settlement and requested a temporary restraining order to prevent the company from posting the designs.

In a 25-page ruling, Lasnik said the states have shown a likelihood of success because the government failed to give required congressional notice before removing the 3D-printed gun designs from a list of regulated munitions, Lasnik said in his ruling.

“The alleged failures to provide notice and to make a reasonable evaluation of the risks and benefits of the proposed action not only impact national security but have domestic repercussions as well,” according to the ruling.

Lasnik agreed the states have shown likely irreparable harm if the 3D-printed guns proliferate.

“The plaintiff states and the District of Columbia, as sovereigns, represent more than 160 million people, many of whom have seen the threat level of their daily lives increase year after year. The District of Columbia, New York, California, Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have all endured assassinations or assassination attempts. School shootings involving students of all ages have occurred in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, Illinois, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Maryland, Iowa, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, and New Jersey during the past 20 years,” Lasnik wrote.

“During the same time frame, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland have experienced workplace shootings with multiple victims. And, of course, hijackers were able to crash airplanes into fields and buildings in Pennsylvania, New York, and the District of Columbia/Virginia in 2001. Plaintiffs have a legitimate fear that adding undetectable and untraceable guns to the arsenal of weaponry already available will likely increase the threat of gun violence they and their people experience.”

Lasnik also questioned the government’s argument that the Undetectable Firearms Act already prohibits manufacture of undetectable guns and will not be affected by allowing the public to download blueprints.

“It is of small comfort to know that, once an undetectable firearm has been used to kill a citizen of Delaware or Rhode Island or Vermont, the federal government will seek to prosecute a weapons charge in federal court while the state pursues a murder conviction in state court. The very purpose for which the private defendants seek to release this technical data is to arm every citizen outside of the government’s traditional control mechanisms of licenses, serial numbers, and registration. It is the untraceable and undetectable nature of these small firearms that poses a unique danger. Promising to detect the undetectable while at the same time removing a significant regulatory hurdle to the proliferation of these weapons – both domestically and internationally – rings hollow and in no way ameliorates, much less avoids, the harms that are likely to befall the States if an injunction is not issued,” Lasnik wrote.

In a statement, Ferguson said he was glad to have prevailed so far but questioned the motivations of the Trump administration.

“Once again, I’m glad we put a stop to this dangerous policy. But I have to ask a simple question: why is the Trump administration working so hard to allow these untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns to be available to domestic abusers, felons, and terrorists?” Ferguson said.

New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood called the ruling “another victory for common sense and public safety.”

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